By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
CRESTWOOD, Ky. — For people interested in farming without a lot of acreage, raising alpacas for their fiber might be the answer. At least it has been for Denise and Rusty Coonley.
In fact, their motto at Bluebonnets and Bluebells Alpaca Farm is “a small farm with big dreams.”
“I needed something to nurture,” Denise Coonley said with a laugh.
Located just 30 miles from Louisville, Ky., the farm consists of just a few acres behind their home in the country near Crestwood. Alpacas don’t require much space, and the Coonleys have had as many as 17. They currently have eight – four females, two geldings and two intact males.
“Our animals are happy, healthy and maybe just a little bit spoiled,” they state on their website. Along with the alpacas, they have a few chickens and, of course, a couple of cats.
The Coonleys contract with an outside source to shear their animals in the spring – getting 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per animal - and then Denise uses the fiber to create one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art through her second endeavor, Blue Fiber Arts.
After a lot of experimentation, Denise discovered that she could clean and card the fiber herself. She also dyes the fiber before creating her art on the FeltLOOM, a machine developed in Sharpsburg, Ky., on the Lan Mark Farm.
“The fiber is amazing,” Denise said. “It’s hollow, so it’s self-insulating. And because there’s no lanolin in it, it’s much softer than wool.”
The lack of lanolin also means the fiber does not repel water, but it is flame resistant.
Many of her pieces are trimmed in goat and sheep fiber.
“My creations are ethereal, yet earthy – what I think is a rare melding of the two,” she said on her website.
After meeting the gentle, long-necked creatures native to Peru, a visit to the farm ends in Denise’s. The Coonleys welcome young and old alike for farm tours.
For more information on the Bluebonnets and Bluegrass Alpaca Farm, visit www.bluealpacas.com. For more information on Denise’s fiber art created on the farm, visit www.bluefiberarts.com.